On Backwardness and Special Status – part 2

Posted on:22-01-14

Avani Kapur, Accountability Initiative

My previous blog (available here) had outlined the manner in which funds are transferred from Government of India (GOI) to states and the need for a fresh approach in transferring funds in the context of changing centre-state relations. In May 2013, GOI had set up a six-member Committee headed by Raghuram Rajan (now RBI Governor) to develop a measure of development or (under) development. The Committee released a Composite Development Index in September 2013. This blog presents a summary of the index by laying out the objectives, methodology and finally the resultant shares of fiscal transfers from GOI to respective states. Read more »

Not The Straight & The Narrow

Posted on:13-01-14

Smriti Iyer, Accountability Initiative

With a new government coming to power in the capital and National Elections round the corner; there have been a lot of discussion over issues of government. The question of why governments do not take some obvious steps to improve governance and implementation of public policy is central to this debate. This blog aims to provide an overview on the role cast out for the government in economic theory and how this can be extended and modified to understand government behaviour. In part, it also seeks to answer why social sector schemes and activities in the economic realm do not function the way they ought to. Read more »

Conditionally Yours: Cash Transfers and School Attendance in Bihar

Posted on:06-01-14

Shailey Tucker & Ambrish Dongre, Accountability Initiative

Student attendance in government schools in Bihar has been low for some time.[1] The Government of Bihar (GoB), with a view to boost attendance in its schools, decided that only those students who have at least 75% attendance in the period of April to September, would be eligible for various entitlements, such as money for uniforms, cycles and scholarship. The academic year 2012-13 was the first year in which this policy was introduced. A couple of our blog-posts last year had looked at the implementation of this policy at the school-level (see here and here). In a nutshell, there was much confusion on the ground about eligibility and distribution, with massive protests from parents and students. Overall, however, most teachers and administrators at the time claimed that such a condition on entitlements was necessary to get children to stay in school. Read more »

New ways of conducting field surveys: Computerised data collection and responsive survey design

Posted on:12-12-13

Vibhu Tewary, Accountability Initiative

In November, I went for a talk at NCAER on “Computerized data collection and the management of Survey Costs and Quality” by James Wagner and Nicole Kirgis from the University of Michigan. The abstract of the talk stated that it would cover topics like responsive survey design, survey biases and ‘paradata’. Now, usually, I am quite wary of talks where I don’t understand 50% of the abstract. However, this talk turned out to be quite interesting and useful. Read more »

Notes from the field: School Management Committees – Somebody Else's Problem Field

Posted on:19-11-13

Mehjabeen Jagmag, Accountability Initiative

“The Somebody Else’s Problem field is much simpler, more effective (in making something properly invisible) … This is because it relies on people's natural predisposition not to see anything they don't want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain.”

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Three years ago, the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act[1] placed significant responsibilities on elected parents of students, representatives from the school staff (including the headmaster) and the community when they created School Management Committees[2] (SMCs) in every government school. Read more »

MPLADS – Learnings and stumbling blocks.

Posted on:06-11-13

Aishwarya Panicker, Accountability Initiative

Those familiar with the Indian political system will know of the roles and responsibilities of a member of parliament (MP). What do they do? If we were to go solely by news reports, hair-pulling, wielding microphones as weapons and occasional rioting form the bulk of the MP’s activity in parliament. However, MP’s are primarily known to don the part of a legislator- elected to debate & discuss issues of national importance, serve on committees and pass legislations of national relevance. The initiation of certain schemes, however, led to the coalescing of their duty as a legislator and that of performing executive functions. The passing of the Members of Parliament-Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) was such a decision. Now in its twentieth year, the scheme provides MPs a chance to not only route public money in areas that they believe need assistance in their constituency, but also expands their role as representatives of the people. Before delving into the controversial areas of the scheme, this blog tries to explore what the MPLADS is and what it aims to achieve. Read more »

Of Backwardness and Special Status- Part 1

Posted on:23-10-13

Avani Kapur, Accountability Initiative

The last few months has seen a clamour from states including Odisha and Bihar for receiving “Special Category Status” (SCS). Meanwhile, last week a panel headed by Raghuram Rajan released a new index of "underdevelopment" to determine central fiscal assistance to states. The index ranked Odisha and Bihar amongst the least developed states. .  What do these criteria mean? What are the benefits of SCS? How is the new underdevelopment index different? This blog attempts to lay out the changing nature of centre - state finances through an analysis of both SCS and the new underdevelopment index. Read more »

Achieving Total Sanitation: Measuring the Problem

Posted on:14-10-13

Avani Kapur, Accountability Initiative

With elections around the corner an issue that seems to have caught everyone's attention is the poor state of sanitation in India. According to Census 2011 findings, only 30.7 percent of rural households have access to sanitation. Given the current unit cost of construction, this would entail over 1 lakh crores of additional expenditure (19 times the expenditure incurred from 1999-2011) to cover 2011 household levels. Construction aside, usage figures are even more dismal. A UNICEF and WHO report[1] found that in 2008 a mere 21 percent of rural India uses improved sanitation facilities[2]. Read more »

Notes from the field: The trouble with transport

Posted on:01-10-13

Mehjabeen Jagmag, Accountability Initiative

Monitoring PAISA surveys is particularly interesting in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra district due to the challenges posed to get to schools. Some schools are located close to village centers and on concrete roads, and are easy to find. Others are further away, off mud tracks, between two village centres and harder to find. Yet others are built on hills, they require a steep climb, several nervous leaps over brimming streams and wild scrambling to get to. Read more »

Is the ban on private tutoring by school teachers justified?

Posted on:19-09-13

Ambrish Dongre, Accountability Initiative

The last two decades have seen a tremendous expansion of the government school system (and probably an even more rapid expansion of private schools) in India. Unfortunately, learning levels have not shown any such improvement, and are, more worryingly, showing a decline[1].  Researchers and policy makers are struggling to find ways to improve learning levels in a systemic way. It is in this context, the phenomenon of private tuitions has started getting some attention[2].

An important question that emerges here is - who provides these private tuitions? In many instances, it is the school teacher who also provides private coaching or tuitions after school hours. This creates a potential distortion in teacher incentives. It is quite possible for these teachers to finish only part of the syllabus in the classroom and generate demand for their own tuitions outside the classroom. As a result, the students who don’t demand these tuitions (because, say, they can’t afford it) are clearly worse-off. Read more »